NDN Blog

Column: A Strategy for Confronting Trump, Restoring Democratic Norms

In his new column for US News, "Drawing the Line with Trump," Simon argues that Democrats need to abandon traditional responses to the Trump Presidency, and set new rules of engagement. Trump’s early, repeated trampling of democratic norms must be confronted head on now. Friday’s decision to strip legal residents of the US of their liberties without debate or consultation is the act of an autocrat or dictator, not an American President. No further evidence of his intentions are needed now.

In his piece Simon lays out four conditions for continued Democratic cooperation:

1) Stop the Executive Orders
2) Debate Your Proposals In Congress
3) Divest or Disclose
4) Honor Decorum

Trump has historically low levels of public support; voters already have grave concerns about his secret holdings and the potential for corruption; and regular people are already taking unprecedented steps to protest his early Presidency. Democrats have a great deal of running room to take a dramatic and principled stand not against Trump but in favor of the rule of law and our democratic system itself.

Release: NDN Calls on President Trump to Delay Decisions on Russia Policy until Investigations Completed

"Given the ongoing investigations by the FBI, CIA and Senate and House Committees into Russia’s penetration of America’s political system, President Trump should refrain from making any significant changes in our policy towards Russia until these investigations are complete, and Congress and the American people have an opportunity to weigh in on their findings.

Additionally, it is our belief that President Trump should put his National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, on leave until he has been cleared of any connections to the Russian government by these same investigations. It is just unacceptable for Flynn to continue in such a sensitive and consequential job – particularly given the early actions by this President which appear to be in concert with Russia’s foreign policy goals – while he is being investigated by the Intelligence Community and law enforcement."

-Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

For this statement and more of Simon's analysis, please review our backgrounder on Russia's insurgency against the West. Additionally, in two recent Twitter threads, Simon elaborated on his concerns of Trump's appeasement of Russia and Trump's steps that signal radical changes in US foreign policy.

Column: "The End of Pax Americana?"

US News and World Report has published Simon's eleventh column, "The End of Pax Americana," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his column, "Chin up, Democrats," in which Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics.
 
An Excerpt from "The End of Pax Americana"
 
In just his first week in office, Donald Trump has made moves that could set the nation back generations. He is trying to dismantle the global order that American built and led after World War II, which ushered in a relative Golden Age for Americans and the people of the world. For reasons that are still unclear, Trump seems intent on tearing down this successful global system without offering any kind of vision of what will replace it. Given that this system was erected as a way of preventing the developed world from slipping back into a frenzy of nationalism and protectionism that in the 1930s and '40s brought global economic collapse, mass unemployment and a World War that left tens of millions dead, this is no small matter.
 
Let's look at what Trump has said and done over the past few weeks. He unilaterally walked away from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a liberalizing trade pack with countries representing 40 percent of the global economy that would have not only extended the global system to more countries but modernized it for the Internet Age. He has called for the renegotiation of the core economic relationship with two of our three largest trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and already threatened to unilaterally leave what we call the North American Free Trade Agreement. The New York Times reports today that an executive order is coming that will dramatically cut back American support and involvement in multi-lateral institutions like the United Nations. Imposing unilateral tariffs and border taxes as Trump has threatened would begin to unravel the global trade regime that has been in place since the 1940s. He has called NATO obsolete, and has cheered on Brexit and encouraged other countries to leave the EU. On Wednesday he announced a series of highly xenophobic steps including the building of his famous wall with Mexico.
 
Taken together Trump is signaling a retreat to the very kind of politics – nationalism, protectionism, racism and xenophobia – that brought about actual carnage in much of the developed world a few generations ago.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: "Chin up, Democrats"

US News and World Report has published Simon's tenth column, "Chin up, Democrats," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies is Now Necessary" in which Simon argues that Trump's plan to keep all of his holdings establishes new far weaker norms, encourages public corruption, creates many new terror targets, and exposes the US to exploitation by foreign governments.

An Excerpt from "Chin Up, Democrats"

On Tuesday I tweeted out a link to a new CNN poll showing that 65 percent of Americans believe Obama's presidency was a success. Among the responses was one from a conservative friend who cited the now familiar litany of statistics showing how much power Republicans had gained during his eight years in office. He ended his tweet with "Thanks Obama."

This exchange captures the Democratic Party's current dilemma. For while the Republicans have more power, the Democrats have been by other measures a far more constructive and successful party. For the second straight administration, a young, talented Democratic outsider was elected to clean up messes left by Republicans who struggled to govern. Both times these young telegenic leaders, despite extraordinary Republican opposition and some missteps along the way, left the country far better than they found it. Both left office with some of the highest approval ratings and people saying their presidencies were a success of the entire post-WWII era of American politics. This is no small achievement.

And for all the GOP stats about decline, we have our own set that paint a more nuanced picture – more votes in six of past seven presidential elections, a feat only matched once in all of American history; a 14-point advantage (53/39) among under-45 voters who will be the dominant force in American political life for the next generation or two; a far more popular and admired party; gains in the Senate and House in 2016, not losses; a huge array of popular and well-regarded national figures.

As Trump ascends into the presidency, Democrats would be wise to give themselves far more credit for a job well done than we hear in the current discourse. Looking back over the past 80 years, there is an argument to be made that the modern Democratic Party has done more to improve the lives of people here and abroad than any organized political force in human history. In addition to leading a decades-long struggle to defeat totalitarianism in various forms, we imagined and built a global order that has ushered in an age of almost unimaginable human progress, peace and self-determination. Billions of people today across the world today have the education and opportunity to contribute to the lives of their countries; billions are living in some form of democracy where they can cast a ballot for their leaders; no great war has engulfed the planet; billions have access to life-saving medical care and modern technologies that are making the act of living itself far more fulfilling, and long.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary

US News and World Report has published Simon's ninth column, "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in which Simon does a deep dive on why Trump 's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

An Excerpt from "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary"

This week, President-elect Donald Trump thumbed his nose at the government agency that oversees ethics in the Executive Branch by announcing he intends to keep all of his far flung holdings as president. Whether this unprecedented and arrogant act is illegal and unconstitutional and not just unethical will be at the center of what is sure to be a vigorous debate in the coming months.

But the worry about his arrangement is far greater than the issue of propriety and legality. Let me offer a few examples:

It establishes new far weaker norms. Perhaps inspired by Trump's example, we've already seen House Republicans vote to gut their own ethics regime; the Senate GOP is holding hearings on Cabinet nominees without either their FBI background check or ethics clearance completed; challenging anti-nepotism laws, Trump is bringing his son in law, who is also not divesting from all his holdings, into the White House; and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson refuse to recuse himself from overseeing decisions affecting his lifelong employer, Exxon Mobil. In these early days, the new GOP has made it clear it intends to weaken or ignore good government policies put into place decades ago – the very opposite of draining the swamp.

It encourages public corruption. Remarkably, Trump not only refused to adopt the many suggestions outside counsel had for how to ethically manage his holdings, he actually walked back a commitment for the Trump Organization to do no new deals while he is president. In his Wednesday press conference, Trump said the business will in fact be able to do "domestic" deals. This is a clear signal from our next president that investors/courtiers, and one would assume U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, should begin lining up at Trump Tower to begin talks on domestic U.S. projects. The benefit of these deals would go directly to the benefit of the Trump family, and since he has not divested, Trump himself. As all of his business dealings are essentially secret, the public would have no way of knowing who was entering into business with the family of the sitting president. The opportunity for public corruption here is perhaps unprecedented in all of American history.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Global Petro-Politics

US News and World Report has published Simon's eighth column, " The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star," in which Simon offers some thoughts on the arduous path ahead for Democrats.  He calls for a focus on four issues now: prosperity, security, political reform and being for everyone.  

An Excerpt from "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's Embrace of Petro-Politics"

For all the sense of fear and dread about the state of the world today, America and its allies do not have a significant global ideological rival as we did with Communism and Fascism in the 20th century. Most of the world is in the American-led global trading system; most of the world has signed on to the Paris climate accords; most of the world still works through the forum of the United Nations to at least discuss and debate contemporary issues.

Yes, this system is fraying. It isn't perfect, and there are outliers and insurgencies, like the Islamic State group. But there is one looming threat that if not contained could continue to grow into something existential and truly threatening – the pernicious politics of oil.

There are three parts to this rising threat. First, climate change. In addition to the promise of the Paris climate accords and the many other steps large and small governments and communities are taking around the world, clean energy investments appear to be hitting an early critical mass, suggesting private sector innovation will play an ever more meaningful, and perhaps historic, role in addressing the challenge. More must be done here, of course, and rapidly, but the Obama years have created a global momentum that I think is unstoppable. Or so I hope. (Note I am an advocate for more domestic fossil fuel production and a supporter of fracking, but also believe in the necessity to accelerate our transition to more sustainable and distributed sources of energy. See this terrific new Atlantic piece from Ron Brownstein on the role fossil fuel production played in the 2016 presidential election.)

Second, the oil curse. What the world has learned is that far too often countries with large oil and gas holdings fall prey to authoritarianism and oligarchical capitalism. There is a traditional political economy reason for this: The revenues generated for the government through oil production frees politicians from their dependence on taxpayer dollars and thus voters themselves. The wealth created through traditional free market capitalism, innovation and bottom up entrepreneurship isn't needed to generate the wealth of the nation or an unaccountable small ruling class. In the process, the state becomes much more powerful vis a vis its own people, and democratic institutions and norms are weakened or struggle to develop. Think of Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia as prime examples.

These petro-economies are in the most extreme a different form of societal organization – maybe a rival? – than free market democracies. They are oligarchical and "command and control" in structure, the opposite of the bottom up, people-led vision of a good society imagined by our Founding Fathers and championed globally by the West since World War II. These countries are less invested in the instruments of the modern free market system, and while they make money off of it, the more it becomes a global success the more of an ideological threat it becomes to their control over their own people – particularly in an age when it is far harder to control the information to which their people have access to.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star

US News and World Report has published Simon's seventh column, "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Trouble Ahead - 4 Scandals That Could Alter the Trump Presidency," in which Simon looks at four looming scandals that could alter the trajectory of the Trump Presidency – unprecedented levels of public corruption, collusion with Russia to alter the outcome of the election, the FBI’s late intervention and Melania’s immigration troubles.

An Excerpt from "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star"

To successfully counter what will be a very aggressive Republican legislative agenda next year, Democrats will be have to be unusually focused and disciplined. At a strategic level we will not just have to make clear what we are against, but also what we are for, what we will do different if once again given the chance to govern. With all that in mind, I offer up an early sketch of a focused agenda that can help animate the Democrats' opposition in the coming years:

Prosperity and Security. While there are many issues we must tackle together in the coming years, there are two that matter more to the nation and the American people themselves than the others – getting ahead, and feeling safe from threats.

The good news for Democrats is that our track record on the economy and keeping us safe is strong, and gives us a lot to work with going forward. On the economy, Obama will leave office with the nation at near full employment, GDP at a robust 3.2 percent, incomes rising since 2013, 25 million more with health insurance, his "all of the above" energy strategy having made us more energy independent while accelerating the growth of renewables, the deficit is half of what it was and the stock market at all-time highs.

For Democrats, this is second consecutive stint in power that we have left the economy far better than we found it. We simply have to become more purposeful about telling this story – since the end of the Cold War there has been more jobs, rising incomes and lower deficits with the Democrats, and job loss, declining incomes and higher deficits with the Republicans. We enter the coming debates about the budget and the economy as the only party which has successfully produced sustained prosperity for America over the past generation of our political life, and we cannot let up in this fight.

On "security," as it has been discussed in this year's campaign, Democrats have simply ceded too much ground to the Republicans of late. By most measures Americans are far safer today. Violent crime, killings of police, Americans killed by terrorists, military causalities are all far lower than during the George W. Bush administration, and in some cases, at all-time lows. The net flow of unauthorized immigrants into the U.S. has dropped from 400,000 a year net under Bush to zero under Obama – a remarkable achievement. Immigrants commit crimes at rates lower than native born Americans, and the economic achievements of the two largest immigrant groups – Asians and Hispanics – are impressive by any measure. Despite historically high levels of immigration, the American "melting pot" has once again done its thing, leaving us a better, stronger and more diverse nation than before. These accomplishments are meaningful, and well worth defending.

On the Middle East and terrorism, Barack Obama will leave office not the first nor the last president disappointed about what was achieved. But on the rise of the Islamic State group, we have to recognize that it grew from the internal political failings of two sovereign nations, Syria and Iraq, caught in the middle of a broader regional struggle between Sunni Arabs and its proxies and Iranian supported Shia forces. Creative thinking is needed here from all sides, thinking that recognizes that there is no "bombing them into the stone age" military solution to the region's troubles. The path forward involves expanding the increasingly successful military and counter-terrorism already in place, vigorously pursuing a regional reconciliation between Sunni and Shia, vigilant efforts to counter the Islamic State group's online reach, and Marshall Plan like efforts to modernize and strengthen those nations in the region wanting to put this violent age behind them.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Trouble Ahead: 4 Scandals That Could Rock The Trump Presidency

US News and World Report has published Simon's sixth column, "Trouble Ahead," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The West Is On the Ballot," in which Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

An Excerpt from "Trouble Ahead"

Democrats just spent an entire election cycle worrying that a lingering scandal could at any moment do significant, crippling damage to their presidential candidate. And in the end, we were right to be worried.

As someone who just went through this on the Democratic side, I have a message for my buoyant Republicans friends: You have far more to be worried about with President-elect Donald Trump than we ever did with Hillary Clinton. Consider that in just the few weeks since the election, Trump payed $25 million in a legal settlement to thousands of Americans whom he scammed and ripped off; he admitted to illegally using his foundation, which is subsidized by American taxpayers, for personal gain; he appeared to use discussions with foreign leaders to advance his business interests (here and here); and his newly-opened luxury hotel in Washington has rapidly become a potent symbol of the unprecedented legal and ethical challenges the president-elect's global business interests will present.

I'm pretty sure we've ever seen anything like this in modern American history.

But this is just the beginning, and there is certainly more to come. It is my take that there are at least four potential game-changing set of scandals that could alter the course of the Trump Presidency.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters

The rise of Trump certainly gives our community much to be concerned about. But as I sit here in DC thinking about what NDN can and should do in the months ahead, I keep coming back to one thing – the Russian intervention in our election. Our government simply owes the American people a clear explanation for what happened, or at least a more transparent process to help us get one, soon.

A new, alarming Washington Post piece from over the break reminded us how extensive the Russian operation was, and how seemingly ill-equipped we were to counter it. There are so many pieces to put together here – the extent of the penetration into the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign; the many ties of the Trump campaign to Russia, something that the FBI is reportedly investigating; the active encouragement of the Russian actions by the GOP nominee and the Republican Party itself, and the precedent setting decision by Party leadership to actively use the questionable material in the campaign; the question of whether there was any actual tampering with our elections process, and the coming to terms with the massive, successful disinformation efforts by the Russians that are now well documented.

For some I am sure this all sounds like a bad James Bond movie. But it is clear now that a foreign hostile power played a major role in a US election, one significant enough to have potentially influenced the outcome. All of our leaders in Washington should be asked to step up here and work together to come to an understanding about what happened, and take concrete, publicly understood steps to ensure it never happens again. This is particularly true, as I wrote in a recent US News column, because the intervention here is part of a wide ranging Russian campaign to weaken the West and a global politics that resists authoritarianism.

It is possible the Russian intervention in our election this year was one of the most significant events in modern American history. While there are many things our leaders can and should be focusing on in the coming year, getting to a better understanding of what happened here has to be at the top of the list. It won’t be easy, and hard conversations will have to be had. The new governing party’s resistance is likely to be fierce. On this one, however, we need to be Americans and patriots first, partisans second. Our leaders need to lead and help America, and the world, understand what happened and to offer clear concrete steps to ensure it never happens again.

Related Materials

The West Is On the Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column, Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

Calling All Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/12/16. In this column Simon does a deep dive on Trumpland’s embrace of Russia’s Putin, and why their admiration for his “strength” is a betrayal of our values.

Arizona Outperforms North Carolina for Democrats

Assuming the current tally holds, AZ now stands at 49.03 Trump 45.46 Clinton, a margin of 3.6%, closer than NC’s 3.8%.  This is important given NC may have seen the greatest investment per vote of any battleground state by Clinton/DNC, and AZ perhaps the least.   Remarkably, AZ outperformed IA, NC and OH for Democrats this year, and has become a place of true opportunity for Ds in the years ahead. 

2016 left us with a new national electorate college map, among other things moving AZ into the core of the battleground and Texas onto its edges (TX outperformed IA for Clinton, and almost matched OH).

It is important to note that the three states where Democrats gained the most ground in 2016 were Texas, California and Arizona, states with large numbers of Hispanics and Millennial voters.  In fact Texas now has a higher share of Millennials and Hispanics than California - today's Texas is a very different state than it was a generation ago.  Clinton won under 45s in Texas by 6 points, 49% to 43%. 

And as we’ve written, many of the key battlegrounds Democrats lost in 2016 (FL, MI, OH, PA, WI) were among the lowest in the nation in Millennial share of the vote.   Many of the states that held for Democrats, or gained – AZ, CA, CO, NV, TX, VA – are in the upper end of Millennial share.   In fact Texas now has a higher share of Millennials and Hispanics than California – a reason it moved so aggressively towards the Dems with little investment.   See our recent report on Millennials for more on this.   Millennials jumped from 19% of the electorate in 2012 to 29% in 2016 according to an election night survey by Democracy Corps.   And their arrival in the electorate will increasingly matter for both parties in the years ahead.

For more on how young voters performed in 2016, see this new study from Tufts/Tisch College's CIRCLE.  It is a must read on the 2016 outcomes.   

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